- There is a great need for technically educated people, but applications for such educational programs are stagnating
- The Dutch Ministry of Education invites entrepreneurs to pitch ideas on how to get students excited to choose a technical profile at vocational education
There is a great need for technically educated people, but applications for such educational programs are stagnating. The ministry has been struggling with this issue for years. Interesting solutions are pitched; ranging from the use of influencers to a mobile workplace in schools. Corine Korrel has been working with vocational education schools for twelve years and is calling for better information for 14-year-olds: now the image of a technical profession is too one-sided.
Entrepreneur Kristel Thieme does not mince her words. Events to promote technology among young people are “extremely passive”, show outdated technology and are too one-sidedly aimed at young people who want to work hands-on. The solution? An escape room at school that also lets 13-year-old girls experience that there are plenty of opportunities in construction or mechatronics.
Thieme (29) is one of the seventeen entrepreneurs who were invited to the Ministry of Education last Friday to pitch. In fifteen minutes, entrepreneurs had to convince the eight-member jury, consisting mainly of civil servants. The winners receive € 40,000 to implement their idea. A total of € 240,000 is available.
This academic year, around 20% of the pupils in the vocational education chose for a technical profile, announced the Techniekpact cooperation earlier this year. This percentage is equal to the percentage in 2013, when the Techniekpact started. The number of applications is also stagnating at other educational levels. All of this is happening while companies are dealing with large shortages of professionals. The limited enthusiasm for the technology profiles is a wicked problem for the ministry, says policy adviser Lucie Gooskens. “We have tried all sorts of things in the last thirty years and are curious about the ideas of other parties that can offer a fresh perspective.” If the challenge for entrepreneurs is successful, the ministry wants to apply this method more often. According to jury member Jan van Nierop (63), chairman of the “Stichting Platforms VMBO”, vocational education students must be approached differently. “The solutions that people my age come up with don't work. We linger in organising technology days and providing ‘learning boxes’ to schools.”
Four entrepreneurs propose to use influencers on social media. The possibilities are endless. The companies write a script and well-known vloggers such as Enzo Knol, Gio and Kalvin pretend that professions like carpenter and biology teacher are the coolest professions in the world. The clips will, of course, remain authentic. “Youtubers know how to achieve mass hysteria,” explains Sanne Knoben of marketing agency 3sixtyfive. As an example, she mentions poopsie slime surprise, a slime pot that, thanks to the vlogs of influencers such as MeisjeDjamila, was among the most popular Sinterklaas gifts last year. Entrepreneur Abdelkarim Seghau takes a different approach. He wants to place a construction trailer in Rotterdam Zuid on a market square, in which primary school students can attend a soldering workshop, for example. At a later stage, he wants to visit schools with a mobile workplace. In this way, he wants to change the image of dirty, poorly paid and little respect that are known for the technical professions.
Vocational education expert Corine Korrel, who is not involved with the ministry’s initiative, doubts whether the ideas of the entrepreneurs will be decisive. “A technology bus has been driving by schools for years and has had little effect. Do you really think that an escape room provides a true picture of a regular working day? In that case, you could just as well spend a day at a theme park.” Korrel is also critical towards using influencers. “I don't think it's fair for children of 14 to be pushed in that way. An influencer does not know what children are good at and what makes them happy, and that’s what matters. Children are not some working force that must solve staff shortages.”
According to Korrel, students mainly need information from professionals who explain what their working day looks like. “Teachers, parents and adolescents often have no idea. Show that a carpenter is not standing at a workbench all day, but must also keep his administration and have contact with customers. Additionally, we should show that there are technical jobs in other sectors, such as the trade industry. That way, professions become more transparent for young people.”